Macarons: the French confection that's sweeping the nation.
Or, the right and left coasts, anyway. Maybe Chicago?
Actually, I'm not sure where else these colorful cookies have landed just yet. They certainly haven't made it up to our neck of the woods. Last time I checked Lou's Bakery, I didn't see them nestled in among the mile-high apple pies and sugar crullers.
So if you want to try macarons, you might have to order them online.
One problem. The first two sites I checked selling macarons offered them at $8.00 for four, and $22.00 for 15, respectively – before shipping.
HELLO. Guess if I want macarons, I'd best make them myself!
And actually, they're not hard. Yeah, they're a bit fussy, with some sifting and whisking and filling required. And, with boiling sugar syrup involved, they're absolutely not something you make with kids or dogs in the kitchen.
But they're totally do-able. Just follow these directions, and you'll be enjoying crisp/chewy macarons in no time at all.
And without shelling out big bucks.
Sound good? Let's get started.
There are a couple of out-of-the-ordinary ingredients you'll need for these cookies. Almond flour (finely ground blanched almonds) gives them body; without almond flour, these cookies would be simple meringues.
Can you make your own almond flour by grinding blanched almonds in a food processor? No; they need to be ground in a special way that prevents them from becoming oily.
First step: Measure out 1 1/2 cups almond flour by stirring, then gently sprinkling into a measuring cup. If you have a scale, this is easy: weigh out 4 ounces.
Pour into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners' sugar.
Process for 20 seconds.
Sift to remove any large pieces, and to aerate the mixture. Set it aside.
Put 3 large egg whites, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of cream of tartar in a large bowl. Set it aside.
Combine 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (1 5/8 ounces) water and 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 3/8 ounces) granulated sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a rapid boil.
Boil for 2 minutes.
The temperature of the syrup should reach between 235°F and 240°F. When it does, take the syrup off the heat.
Immediately start whipping the egg whites, using an electric mixer.
When they hold a soft peak on the end of the beater, stop, grab the pan of hot syrup, resume beating, and pour the syrup steadily into the whites as you beat.
Stop to scrape the sides of the bowl midway through.
Be sure to get as much of the syrup into the bowl of egg whites as possible. It'll be sticky.
Continue beating until the meringue is smooth, glossy, and forms soft peaks. This is EXACTLY what a soft peak looks like.
Fold in the almond flour/sugar.
You can just pick up the whisk and fold the almond/sugar in by hand; it goes quickly.
Once everything is fully incorporated, stir with a spatula until the batter runs in ribbons that disappear back into the mass in 10 to 20 seconds. Test frequently, and stop stirring when you reach this point.
Don't have parchment? Use your silicone baking mat. No baking mat? Use non-stick aluminum foil.
Don't have any of the above? Don't make these cookies - really.
The test cookie should flatten out, rather than remain in a tall blob. If it doesn't spread, stir the batter some more; your goal is a disc-like, fairly flat cookie.
As you can see, the cookies above didn't spread...
So I stirred the batter some more.
Pictured at left is how the cookies should look. At right, the batter is too firm; stir some more.
Want to tint some of your macarons in fun colors? Now's your chance. The ones you may have seen in a fancy bakery are often tinted blue, pink, yellow, or green.
I chose a drop or so of extra-strong gel-paste color...
...to turn the batter a lovely pink.
See how nicely these are spreading? That's your goal.
Allow to rest in a dry place with good air circulation (a counter top is fine) until you can gently touch the tops and come away with a clean finger, about 2 hours.
See how their shininess has dulled as they've rested?
Towards the end of the resting time, preheat the oven to 275°F.
Bake the cookies for 25 to 30 minutes, till firm on the top. They'll develop a “fuzzy” ring around the center; that's a good thing!
Remove them from the oven, and cool completely on sheet.
Use a thin spatula to carefully separate them from the parchment or foil.
Next, choose your filling. Jam, ganache, frosting, nut butter – anything your heart desires.
I thought ganache would be a suitable filling. After all, when is it not?!
Combine 6 ounces chocolate chips with 4 ounces heavy cream.
Microwave till the cream is very hot and starts to bubble around the edges.
Stir to combine. Keep stirring till smooth and shiny.
Plop a heaping teaspoonful onto half the cookies. Top with the remainder of the cookies.
Raspberry jam is a nice choice with pink cookies.
Tower of macarons!
These cookies are best eaten within 24 hours; they don't hold particularly well, so make them the day of your party.
Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Macarons.
And, if you're at all nervous about making the boiling sugar syrup for this classic macaron recipe, try our Simple Macarons, using a basic uncooked meringue.